Can I let you in on an industry secret? Pumpkin pie is available any time of year. You can make your grandmother’s 24-hour salad in April. The splendor of sweet potato casserole can be appreciated as soon as the farmer finishes his harvest. And (hold onto your hats for this one) the savory notes of the family’s secret recipe for stuffing can be relished in July alongside hamburgers and fireworks. The magic of the holiday season is not in the food and need not be limited to a decadent meal. What draws us in are the tender memories and cherished traditions. The answer then lies in mindfulness, which can open us to a new manner of living – one that allows us to appreciate each moment of this season and cherish every day of the year as sacred.
“Mindfulness” has reached buzzword status and can seem a practice of mystical proportions. In reality, mindfulness is simply living with intention and attention. It is living your life on purpose and becoming aware of every moment as it happens. Mindfulness allows you to turn your mind from your infinite to-do list and notice each bite you put in your mouth through each meal – without judgment. Mindful eating is often the first step on the journey toward mindfulness, providing an everyday practice with which to put these skills into fruition. If we allow it, mindfulness can also be a step away from a war over food and one toward being more present with those around you. It begins with each of your five senses, noticing and honoring each of the signals your body provides, from grumbling stomach to the nuances of fullness. It continues with self-compassion and trusting your intuitive wisdom, then meeting your needs with the resources available to you. Give yourself permission to be authentic, to strive for non-judgmental awareness of your experiences and to know you are truly doing the best you can.
Mindfulness allows you to be present with your eating and invites you to be more present with others. Become aware of the texture and flavor of your food and savor every moment. Find contentment with each meal, thus, taking steps toward seeing yourself as a whole person with flaws, light and purpose. Release the rules of dieting we are endlessly faced with, the common criticisms of flawed yet human family members and the need to do everything “right.” Begin with mindful eating and let go of worries about food and New Year’s resolutions to lose 50 pounds by Valentine’s Day, and embrace the peace and joy of the here and now. You deserve it.
Dr. Jenny Copeland, Clinical Psychologist, practices at Ozark Center in Joplin, MO. Dr. Copeland specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. She has extensive experience in psychological assessment and treatment of people with diverse clinical concerns. Visit ozarkcenter.com to learn more about Ozark Center services.